As many Enviro-Mich readers know, last fall hearings were held by a Joint House Senate Committee on state forest issues. The hearings, were dominated by the Timber Industry, which had worked behind the scenes through the summer apparently to put together legislation that, at that time, was pitched as improving the State Forests in a variety of ways.
Now the bills have been introduced, and they are quite simply the Timber Industry's dream bills. HB 5552 and HB 5553 in particular, and HB 5554 to a lesser degree, go a huge distance toward turning control over management of Michigan 3.9 million acres of State Forests over for the sole objective of timber production. My analysis below is superficial, but a hearing has already been scheduled on HB 5554 for NEXT TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 24Th, so I would urge hunters, anglers, hikers, berry pickers, campers, etc., to take a close look at the three bills, and let your Legislators know your thoughts.
One thing that is abundantly clear in conversations with even concerned legislators is that most do not know much about our vast and diverse State Forests. In fact, the language of the bills is highly deceptive -- all of us care about "sustainability" and that terminology is used throughout, but the reality is the specific activities authorized or mandated in the bills work to undercut both the multiple use nature of our State Forests, and the ecological sustainability of these lands. So even those who have cosponsored these bills need to hear from you, their constituents, that it is a terrible idea to pass these bills and make YOUR State Forests basically wholly owned subsidiaries of the international timber conglomerates.
HB 5552 -- The Forest Development Fund is the account where all the revenue from logging on State Forests is to be deposited (with some minor exceptions for lands purchased with wildlife funds). Originally created as a way to let bonds to be used to improve the value of State Forest timberlands so that more revenue would be generated, this bill is using this forum as a back door way to hand control over the timber management on state forests to the industry. The FDF is now the account which provides all funds for the running of the DNR's State Forest management activities as well as a significant amount of funding for forest fire fighting. The FDF has NOT played a significant role in the decisions about management of the State Forests in the past, leaving that to the DNR (And we are not happy as a rule with DNR’s management) but it appears that this shift is intended to hand the reins to industry so they can exercise that control now.
- changes the oversight board for the FDF from being made up of State officials (State Forester and Treasurer) and members of the General Public, to the Attorney General, the State Forester, and four residents ALL required to represent the Timber Industry in one way or another (Forest products industry association, commercial logging contractor, nonindustrial private forestland owner, and wood products manufacturing industry rep);
- Allows for payment of Payment in Lieu of Taxes from the FDF, which is already drastically stretched just trying to cover the costs of forest management for multiple purpose and forest fire fighting;
- Pay for forest certification (not a bad thing per se) as authorized under HB 5554)
HB 5553 – Creates 4 FOREST PILOT PROJECT AREAS on Michigan State Forests, that are to be put out for contracts by the DNR for private entities to do timber marking, logging and reforestation of these State Forest lands. While the project areas proposed are relatively small (200 to 640 acres) but this is clearly designed to set a precedent to privatize YOUR State Forests specifically for timber purposes.
HB 5554 – This bill starts off sort of on the right foot, setting out the goals for managing State Forests, including some fine objectives, a call for third party certification of the State Forests (something the Governor has already mandated and that the DNR is already pursuing), and finally getting forest management planning written into law in Michigan. However, the annual reports from the DNR to the legislature would include almost solely timber based metrics: number of acres that can be logged, number of acres logged the previous year, number of cords of wood produced, suggested changes in the plan, and the activities on the pilot forests set up under HB 5553.
This is a BAD set of bills, losing total sight of Michigan’s remarkable, diverse public forest lands – Please take time to let you State Representative know about how YOU use the State Forests, and make sure they know that signing the deed over to the Timber Industry is NOT in your interests, nor in Michigan’s interests!
All bills can be found at www.michiganlegislature.org – enter the bill numbers and you’ll find a full copy.
Anne Woiwode, Director
Sierra Club Mackinac Chapter
109 East Grand River Avenue, Lansing, MI 48906
ph: 517-484-2372 fx: 517-484-3108 e: firstname.lastname@example.org